Helping your colicky baby

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Colic is the medical term for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. The problem is equally common in bottle and breastfed babies and doesn’t affect one gender more than the other. At least one in five babies suffers from colic during the first six months of life and it is a particularly misery-inducing, stressful period for any new parent who’s trying to survive on just a few hours sleep.

Typically colic begins within the first few weeks of life and may continue intermittently until around the fourth or even sixth month. Some parents find that the colic eases as the baby begins to be more upright and others find that it disappears once weaning commences at around six months. Colic doesn’t affect the baby’s overall health and even a baby who has been suffering tremendously will continue to gain weight and develop at a normal pace.

A baby with colic will appear to be in great discomfort, clenching her fists, screwing up her face and often alluding to pain in the stomach area by drawing her legs up to her chest. She will cry loudly, even screaming, which is understandably deeply disconcerting and upsetting for any parent. If you are concerned that your baby might have colic, it’s always advisable to seek medical help from your GP early on, as much to rule out other potential problems as to get a proper diagnosis.

Unfortunately there is no cure for colic; it really is just a case of letting nature take its course. There are no specifically recommended medications, but here are a few suggestions of how to help your baby:

ג€¢ Feed on demand rather than to a set schedule
ג€¢ Sit your baby upright on your lap when feeding as this may prevent swallowing excess air leading to wind
ג€¢ Burp your baby after every feed
ג€¢ Your baby may benefit from a period lying on her tummy and a little back rub, or the opposite (lying on her back with a gentle tummy massage to stimulate digestion)
ג€¢ A warm bath may sooth sore tummies and provide a welcome diversion
ג€¢ Swaddling may calm newborns and help them to settle
ג€¢ The use of a dummy or pacifier and associated rhythmic sucking may distract your child and stop the crying
ג€¢ Try not to over stimulate your colicky baby, so keep lights low and noise to a minimum
ג€¢ Carry your baby around in a sling as your warmth and proximity may provide comfort
ג€¢ Some babies might benefit from adding lactase drops to breast milk or formula. Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down a sugar called lactose, which is found in milk, and may help babies who have short-term problems digesting lactose ג€“ consult your GP for further advice.

While you are going through this difficult time it is important to keep a sense of perspective. Realise that the colic is not your fault and remember that it really is only temporary ג€“ although it might seem at the time never-ending. Ideally arrange for family and friends to give you regular respite while they babysit and allow you to catch up on sleep or have a little precious time to yourself.

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